Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Obama-hatred" has gotten off the a really fast start. It's caused by the failure of conservatism.

It was pretty clear to anyone who suffered through Bobby Jindal's rebuttal to Obama's speech the other night that Jindal did a horrible job. Even many commenters on FOX panned his efforts. Now, though, the right-wing talk shows who drive and lead the remaining conservative rump of the Republican party are defending him and excoriating any Republican who says Jindal did poorly, according to Digby at Hullabaloo.

Digby does make the point that Jindal was not speaking to the nation, though. His sole purpose for getting on TV in front of the nation was to speak to the conservative activists in the Republican Party who will select the Presidential candidate in 2012. Unfortunately, the Republican Party under conservative domination has become a wild-eyed cult and appears to be doomed to a permanent minority if it continues along this route of placing blind faith in ideology and failing to recognize reality when it slaps them in the face.

They've had a thirty year run of placing the conservative ideology and identity above the good of the nation, and it worked well enough to elect three Presidents and gain control of both houses of Congress for the first time since Eisenhower was elected in 1952. They've convinced themselves that their blind faith in their ideology gave them power, and now that it is being taken back away from them, they think that all they have to do to get the power back is to double and redouble their efforts and profess their blind unwavering faith under all circumstances in conservatism.

Naturally, they can't admit that it was that very conservatism put into practice that has created the current world-wide economic disaster which is now clearly growing worse and sees no indication of turning around. No, instead they are redoubling their support of conservatism once again, depending on it to return them to the power they crave. Admitting that conservatism failed would indicate that they did not have enough faith, and were not "worthy."

The result is a shrinking Republican Party dominated by the whims of unaccountable right-wing conservative talk shows (Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, etc) and similar conservative TV talking heads like Bill O'Reilly.

They see the return of their power as being dependent on the deepening Recession and Obama's failure to deal with it. That leads them to two sets of actions. They are already acting. They will obstruct every effort by Congress and Obama to alleviate the economic problems as much as they can, and they have to demonize Barack Obama.

Steve Benen points out that right-wing polemicist Bill Krystol from the Weekly Standard has published an unusually candid admission of the need to obstruct all efforts to alleviate the problems caused by the Recession. Eric Boehlert writes a good summary showing the effectively instantaneous development of right-wing media hatred of Barack Obama that has developed over the 30 days he has been President. Neither is illogical from the point of view of committed conservative ideologues who are convinced that they can regain power while retaining their group identity if they only display total, unwavering faith in "Conservatism."

It is that unwavering faith and their belief that they can only succeed in imposing it on everyone else if they return to power that is driving the right-wing media to the most extreme lengths.

Like the Great Depression did to similar right-wing economic ideologues in the 30's, they are going to fail. They have been exposed. Supply-side economics has proven to be an utter failure. Tax cuts to give more money to the rich does not create more middle-class jobs, just more mansions and yachts. Deregulated banks cannot be prevented from taking greater and greater risks until they take the entire system down. Unregulated mortgage brokers paid strictly on commission for the largest mortgages will lie and cheat both the customers and the banks supplying the mortgage funds, and the unregulated mortgage banks will sell the dreck the mortgage brokers provide in large bundles to investors who turn a blind eye as long as the money continues to roll in on schedule.

At the same time, other unscrupulous financial managers have been building ponzi schemes and often moving off-shore to facilitate separating the marks from their money. Unregulated food and drug producers are providing poisons instead of food, medicines and medical apparatus. So are unregulated toy manufacturers, especially overseas where they face even less vigilance from governments who want to increase exports and don't care what happens to consumers in other nations. Then retailers like WalMart buy the dreck from the lowest bidder because no one has any control of the poor quality control in production, quality control that was eliminated in an effort to lower costs and compete against better quality producers. Then WalMart markets its stuff to customers who are searching for a bargain because they have not had a real pay raise since 1970. And so on.

Meanwhile, the conservatives, who have made a fetish of obsessing about the glories available in their imaginary heaven created by unregulated markets in which government never interferes, turn a blind eye to the failures of that market as they each present themselves to their supporters as totally faithful believers in conservatism. They are collectively running for power based on their faith in the failed god of conservatism. That will only work as long at the voters will follow the lead of the right-wing extremist spokespersons in radio, TV and in print. The more they fail in the effort, these true-believers will become even more extreme in their efforts.

Thus the clear obstructionism in Congress and the ever-growing hatred of Barack Obama and everything they claim that he stands for.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Many Republicans liked the stimulus bill but feared political repercussions if they voted for it.

The Republicans in the House were unanimous in voting against the stimulus bill, as were all but three Senate Republicans. But that wasn't because they all thought it was wrong or wouldn't work. It was because they feared political repercussions bake n their home states if they voted for it. According to Arlen Spector (via Steve Benen
"When I came back to the cloak room after coming to the agreement a week ago today," said Specter, "one of my colleagues said, 'Arlen, I'm proud of you.' My Republican colleague said, 'Arlen, I'm proud of you.' I said, 'Are you going to vote with me?' And he said, 'No, I might have a primary.' And I said, 'Well, you know very well I'm going to have a primary.'" [...]

"I think there are a lot of people in the Republican caucus who are glad to see this action taken without their fingerprints, without their participation," he said.
Steve Benen added
Asked how many Republican lawmakers we're talking about here, Specter said it's a "sizable number."
I find that encouraging. If the Republicans were either ignorant of the economic conditions that are driving so many Americans to support the unique and massive spending in the stimulus bill, I'd have to consider them all subject to brainwashing by an insane organization. At least they aren't literally insane.

Unfortunately, that still means that the Republican party would, as a whole, rather see America go down the tubes into economic collapse with no effort made by the government to prevent it. They are forcing their representatives in Congress to act for them to damage America.

If what Spector said is true, the powers that run the Republican Party are in the politics business for their own reasons with no interest in the quality of life for most Americans. That frankly is either insane or without conscience, and that means that the ruling powers of the Republican party are anti-American. We have our own home-grown body of extremist domestic terrorists with their representatives being the minority party in Congress.

Provincial Washington media misses real story of the stimulus bill

Obama is set to sign a massive stimulus bill Monday, which is a major accomplishment any President could be proud of. The fact that Obama got it through Congress only three weeks after he was inaugurated President is nothing short of Amazing. The media generally, however, wants to discuss only the fact that not a single House Republican and all but three Senate Republicans voted against the bill. Somehow the Washington, D.C. media has its priorities all screwed up. Their priority is not the economic disaster that is rapidly engulfing America and the world. Their priority is to report on the failed efforts of Obama, three weeks into his Presidency, to get the Republicans to vote for his bills.

Barack recognizes that even in the face of his stunning achievement of muscling the massive stimulus bill through the legislative meat-grinder and delay-machine we call Congress, he may have made some errors in how he spoke and set expectations inside the beltway.

From Steve Benen:
On Thursday night, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel suggested the White House had overdone their initial outreach to Republicans, telling reporters Obama's aides got "ahead of ourselves" when it came to striving for bipartisan comity.

Yesterday, White House staffers were signaling that they wouldn't repeat this in the future.
Advisers concluded that they allowed the measure of bipartisanship to be defined as winning Republican votes rather than bringing civility to the debate, distracting attention from what have otherwise been major legislative victories. Although Mr. Obama vowed to keep reaching out to Republicans, advisers now believe the environment will probably not change in coming months.

Rather than forging broad consensus with Republicans, the Obama advisers said they would have to narrow their ambitions and look for discrete areas where they might build temporary coalitions based on regional interests rather than party, as on energy legislation. They said they would also turn to Republican governors for support -- a tactic that showed promise during the debate over the economic package -- even if they found few Republican allies in Washington. [...]
Then Steve concludes:
I don't doubt that President Obama will continue to have a dialog with congressional Republicans. He'll keep them apprised of his intentions; he'll hear them out when they have complaints; and he'll maintain a respectful tone. But after the stimulus fight, the president, I suspect, has "learned a lesson" about how to engage a party that has philosophical, practical, and strategic goals that are wholly at odds with his own.
So essentially, the beltway media failed to generally get the real story and to put it into some perspective. [Not completely. The links from this article go to the Washington Post and the New York Times, but not many others followed their lead. That sure isn't where the TV so-called news out of D.C. went. They set the agenda for the national news (after they get it from Drudge.) This was largely a missed story.

Obama was not elected because he was going to draw the Republican Party into a large national unity in the face of the immediate and growing economic crisis. He was elected because he promised to deal with that crisis, and the Republicans for reasons of ideology and incompetence, refused to do so under George W. Bush.

Face it. Bush went on vacation for at least the last two months of his Presidency, delegating the economic crisis (which he has never understood, seemed to never take seriously, and clearly did not care about) to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his Treasury secretary Henry Paulson. Obama was elected to do what no one has ever successfully done before, alleviate and possibly reverse quickly the worst financial disaster to hit America since the Great Depression.

He promised to try also to raise the partisan tone of Washington, but except to Washingtonians and perhaps to those who want favors from powerful men in Washington, the partisan tone is a feature of the landscape in that city. That partisan tone is part of the nature of the Republican Party, and it is an essential part of their efforts to maintain and possibly regain power. They represent people who feel that the nation overall is going the wrong way, even now, and to expect them to somehow do that without personal animosity to those who stand in the way of their efforts to change the core nature of America is frankly unrealistic.

Barack seems to have realized that he cannot deal with the conservatives as a national group the same way as he did in the Senate with many of their representatives. OK. So he performed an amazing feat getting the stimulus bill through, and along the way he has learned that he has to change the way he manages the media narrative. That's the real story. For the first time since early 2007 when CountryWide announced that it was having an extremely high rate of mortgage defaults, the government has finally taken cognizance of the economic crisis and started to do something.

The passage of the stimulus bill and the events surrounding it seem to have come to a very good conclusion right now in the early days of the Obama administration, yet the media whines that the Republicans voted against it so somehow Obama has failed. You really have to wonder just how provincial the Washington, D.C media is to have so totally missed the main story here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Republicans don't want bipartisanship. They want control

Ed Kilgore at The Democratic Strategist has the story.

Obama's support as measured by the polls has been unusually high. It has included a large percentage of the Republican voters. The recent drops in his ratings recently have all come from Republican voers in spite to their continued support for Obama's policy goals. There is discussion among Democrats that Obama needs to give up on bipartisanship, Ed concludes, however, that Obama's long term goals will require that he maintains a significant degree of support among Republicans.

Ed, of course, has been a long-time supporter of the Democratic Leadership Council, which has existed to promote bipartisanship and making Progressives more like Conservatives. While his bias is clear here, Ed is also extremely knowledgeable and should certainly be considered in the debate.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Right wing talk radio and TV motivated Adkisson to "kill Liberals"

Remember James Adkisson? He's the recently laid off 58 year-old man who Walked into the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee one sunny Sunday morning last July with a rifle and started trying to kill as many Untarians as he could before the police killed him. He murdered two before the other members grabbed and subdued him. He has just been (properly) sentenced to life without parole.

The news vaguely mentioned something about his idea as being out to kill Liberals, and the discovery that his house was filled with books by Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and other right-wing hate talkers. It seemed reasonably clear that his was a hate crime, aimed at Liberals and instigated by right wing pundits on radio and TV. But the press never presented more evidence than just rumors of his speech claiming to be after "Liberals and Democrats."

Well, wonder no more. Now that he has been tried and convicted and sentenced, he has posted his pronouncement (a pdf file) explaining very clearly, lucidly and literately, why he did it. It is also presented in very clear hand printing. I assume from the letter itself that he didn't want people who read it to have trouble with his handwriting, and he was given to access to a word processor. He wen to considerable pains to make himself clear.

Here, courtesy of Sara Robinson, are some choice quoted:
"Know this if nothing else: This was a hate crime. I hate the damn left-wing liberals. There is a vast left-wing conspiracy in this country & these liberals are working together to attack every decent & honorable institution in the nation, trying to turn this country into a communist state. Shame on them....

"This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book. I'd like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn't get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It's the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence."

"I thought I'd do something good for this Country Kill Democrats til the cops kill me....Liberals are a pest like termites. Millions of them Each little bite contributes to the downfall of this great nation. The only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is to kill them in the streets. Kill them where they gather. I'd like to encourage other like minded people to do what I've done. If life aint worth living anymore don't just kill yourself. do something for your Country before you go. Go Kill Liberals."
This is what O'Reilly, Limbaugh and the other representatives on talk radio and Fox News have been demanding their followers to do. Their excuse on radio is that it is just "entertainment." It's clear that Adkinson did not consider it entertainment. How many other right-wing nutcases are out there who are having personal or career problems and see that "entertainment" as guidance on what to do to cure "society?"

Sara also suggest what Liberals and Democrats (as well as minorities and gays) are going to have to learn from this:
Progressives should take three lessons away from Knoxville:

One: We are no longer safe, not even in our own houses of worship. It's ironic that progressives—the subgroup of Americans who were most determined not to abandon reason and succumb to overblown fears of Islamic terrorism in the wake of 9/11—now have good, serious reasons to fear real domestic terrorism against themselves.

Two: A significant part of this country's media infrastructure is thoroughly devoted to inciting people to commit horrific acts of violence against us—and now, we know for a fact that people are acting on those incitements. It's time to start taking this far more seriously. What goes out across our airwaves these days isn't all that different from what went out over Radio Rwanda a decade ago, spurring that country to genocide. At this point, it's only a difference of degree.

Three: The right wing has, as usual, grossly underestimated our courage and our commitment. The members of Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist quickly and effectively disarmed and captured this man within seconds after he opened fire. Adkisson expected fear; what we got was determined resistance. It's why he's still alive today, and why more UUs aren't dead by his hand. The TVUUA congregation should be our enduring example of liberal grace under fire.

Adkisson's "manifesto" should end any doubts we ever had about how virulent and dangerous hate talk is, or whether or not that talk will eventually translate into action.
Sara's right. The right wing conservative windbags really are initiating a shooting war in this country. Conservatives and hard line members of their audiences to the right wing propaganda those propagandists are peddling feel aggrieved because fewer and fewer people are buying the failed conservative ideology and so they want to go out and kill someone.

Adkisson is just one, very extreme, example. Now he has told us why. There is no longer any room for doubt. He doesn't appear insane. He has simply been misled.

Good God! Is this a "self-aware" TV pundit?

Watch this short clip.

Is it possible? A self aware TV pundit - a talking head - actually responding to evidence? Not just spouting right-wing ideology and opposition to all things Democrat?

Nah. This is a fantasy. I wonder how they got it on tape?

[ h/t to talking points memo ]

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Things have changed, but the D.C. media doesn't get it

It's a Disaster! It's Horrible! The Conservatives are coming back into control of the Government after eight and more years of proven incompetence!! Two weeks into office and Obama has lost control of his Presidency and the government!!!

Or at least that's the conclusion that a lot of people seem to be jumping to, based on the ignorant froth and ranting in the political media.

It seems to me that I recall one or maybe two occasions during Obama's campaign for President when they lost a week or so in the media and everyone was screaming that it was a disaster. Then for no reason that was obvious in the media, the situation was turned around. Obama was a real long shot, but he won.

I think that the Obama campaign specifically eschewed the use of the Bill Clinton-style media-focused warroom rapid response operation in favor of deeper understanding and control of the problem. They were using different, none media-centered levers to manipulate public opinion. And somehow the Obama campaign then seemed to almost effortlessly to turn such "disasters" around.

The same small group of people is still running the Obama operation. They didn't miss much. When they did, they quickly adjusted their focus. And since they operated below the media radar, their opponents did not know what was happening to them and found it difficult to prepare a defense.

Many of the same otherwise sensible anti-conservatives were reacting to the Obama "disasters" during the campaign much as they are reacting to this situation, with much noise, anguish and wringing of hands. Remember when McCain had his Palin-bounce after the Republican convention?

These Obama guys didn't expose their strategy in public to the media. (Or if they did, the media never figured it out. Either way, they didn't see it. Why should that change now? When was the last time a media-generated flap like this one was anything more than the result of the fevered imaginations of people looking for something to write or broadcast about to fill a news hole or empty airtime? I don't think the public is being influenced my the media nearly as much as the media is feeding the public what they want to hear so they can get ratings/advertising revenues. The public is already quite set in its opinions and demands. The Obama camp is trying to change those basic public opinions, and they in the past seem to have learned how to actually get what they want in spite of the media.

I don't think those of us who try to keep informed will have a clue what is really going on until after it has happened. No amount of screaming, wailing, shrieking and rending-of-clothes will make a difference. But the same is true for the conservatives.

The conservatives, now, are (probably) badly misreading the situation. They think (as do the writers of the articles Steve is responding to and as do much of the rest of the political media) that they really do think they have caught up with the Obama juggernaut. That's certainly the talk show conceit. But if the pattern holds true, at some time soon the obstructionists will suddenly find that the situation has changed and they have been outflanked. They, along with the rest of us, will not know in advance how or when.

I suspect that we need to learn more patience. I have little doubt that Mitch McConnell and his compatriots are going to learn a touch of humility - to the extent that they are capable of learning anything. Rush and most of his ilk never will.

[ h/t to Steve Benen at Washington Monthly's Political Animal. ]

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Auto sales off sharply - not just Detroit cars, either

It was expected that auto sales for January would drop, but not like this.
NEW YORK ( -- Auto sales tumbled 38% in January, plunging even more than expected to their worst levels since 1982 as a pullback in purchases by rental car companies became the latest problem for the troubled industry.

General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) reported that its sales plunged 49% from a year ago. Ford Motor (F, Fortune 500) said sales fell 39% at its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands, and 40% overall when including sales at Volvo, which Ford is trying to sell. Chrysler LLC reported a 55% drop in sales.

But it wasn't just the U.S. automakers reporting sharply lower sales. Toyota Motor (TM) reported a 32% decrease in its U.S. sales, while sales at Honda Motor (HMC) tumbled 28%. Nissan (NSANY) sales fell 30%.

"We are facing unprecedented times in the industry, and no auto company is immune from current market conditions," said Dick Colliver, executive vice president of sales for American Honda, in a statement.
This was NOT the fault of union labor. This was a result of the Recession.